Apple Unveils Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ Prices and Dates
At its September 10th event, Apple put an end to speculation about how much its new streaming media services, Apple Arcade and Apple TV+, would cost and when they would become available. Here’s the scoop.
Apple Arcade is the company’s game subscription service, and it debuts on 19 September 2019 in 150 countries for $4.99 per month (although it’s actually live on devices running the iOS 13 betas right now). For that, you get access to more than a hundred games that you can download from the App Store—look for the new Arcade tab—and play, either online or not as you choose. Apple Arcade games are designed to be shared among your Apple devices, so you can pick up your epic Frogger journey on your MacBook where you left off on your iPad.
The games are also designed to be shared among your family: up to five family members can share one subscription. And if some of those family members have, um, impulse control problems regarding the playing of games, all the games available from Apple Arcade can be monitored and limited by Screen Time.
A 30-day free trial of the service is available to those wondering whether a subscription game service is for them and is in no way intended to resemble the archetypical drug peddler’s famous come-on “The first one’s free.”
It’s notable that Apple is making Apple Arcade available in 150 countries from day one, something that licensing restrictions often prevent. But since all the content has been developed for Apple, most pesky licensing issues go away.
Our initial reaction is that $4.99 per month is a good price point for Apple Arcade, since it’s low enough that you don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to give it a try, and having lots of games available will help make it feel worthwhile. Much as it was amusing to see Apple demo an update to the 1981 game Frogger, we don’t expect Apple Arcade to be a big hit among TidBITS readers, many of whom stopped finding games interesting decades ago.
Much virtual ink has been spilled over how much Apple would charge for its new Apple TV+ video service in light of recent announcements by competitors about their forthcoming streaming services (see “Disney Will Bundle Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 Per Month,” 8 August 2019). Now all can be revealed: Apple’s service debuts on 1 November 2019 and will cost, like Apple Arcade, $4.99 per month.
Unlike most services that rely upon an extensive library of shows, Apple will provide only new, original programming produced specifically for the service, including both series and standalone features. Apple TV+ will be available in over 100 countries at its start—again, there are fewer pesky licensing issues with Apple-commissioned content—and you can watch the shows in the TV app on the Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even iPod touch. We expect iOS 13, macOS 10.15 Catalina, and tvOS 13 will be required.
But an Apple device won’t be required: the Apple TV app on some newer Samsung smart TVs will also be able to play Apple TV+ content, and more third-party devices from Amazon, Roku, and Sony are expected to offer the app and, hence, the service, in the near future. Even if all you have is a Windows laptop, no worries: you’ll also be able to stream Apple TV+ in your Web browser from tv.apple.com.
If you want to sample the shows before subscribing, Apple says it will offer a 7-day free trial. If you also need new Apple gear, you can get a year’s subscription for free with the purchase of any Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or Apple TV. As many as six family members can share a single subscription, so you can buy your kid a new MacBook Air for college and enjoy a free year’s entertainment.
As with Apple Arcade, the $4.99 price point feels reasonable, since Apple won’t have that much available to watch in comparison with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. Much higher and people would see Apple TV+ as too expensive to add to other streaming subscriptions. The 1-year free bundle with the purchase of any new Apple hardware is also smart since it will help encourage Apple customers to give Apple TV+ a try and perhaps subscribe after the year is over.
Apple is betting a significant portion of its future earnings on subscription services. It’s a complex market, and Apple must thread the needle very carefully to sew up profits in such a highly competitive and unpredictable environment.
At first glance, the pricing and content mix seem right for Apple’s foray into the entertainment industry, but the only thing certain about show business is its uncertainty, so to find out how this story ends we’re just going to have to keep watching.
Apple TV+ will cost $7.99 a month in Australia, which seems a bit high for a service with limited content. The Apple promo page does mention you can also buy/rent other TV shows and movies (i.e. iTunes purchases are integrated) which seems to be a key part of their business model so the subscription cost here is disappointing.
Then again we have just about run out of things to watch on Netflix so a few iTunes 99c rentals a month plus Apple TV+ might be our future preference.
For us it is also important that the (device) AppleTV continues to support Homesharing so we can watch local content stored on a Mac.
At today’s exchange rate, $7.99AUD is 10% more than the U.S. fee of $4.99USD. Since it apparently doesn’t include access to any licensed content, the value is all a question of how much content Apple produces and if you’re interested in it. It can be shared by up to six family members so that’s another part of the value. If you run out of stuff worth watching, stop paying for a while then sign up again when there’s enough new stuff.
Device-wise, I’m glad it won’t require an Apple one, I’ll see if I want to sign up after it’s available on the Roku.
My guess is that Apple is charging more in markets that have the strongest established base of Apple devices and services. I’ll bet they are also benchmarking against other streaming services in each country and also considering how much, or little, of their current very limited list of programming, will be a draw.
I did some snooping around about this and found that pricing among markets varies considerably. India, which is a particularly challenging market for Apple, will only cost $1.38 per month. Since Disney is releasing its streaming service on a market by market basis, Apple will be getting a big jump on them. And since India is a very strong market for Netflix, the pricing and trial plans could work very well:
Apple’s announcement was well received by the stock market, and Disney and Netflix took a hit:
But there’s a big, big difference between Disney+ (or Netflix) and Apple TV: Disney has actual content (boy, do they have actual content), Apple doesn’t. I signed up for Disney+ using the D23 discount, while I wouldn’t even bother with Apple TV+ if I wasn’t getting it for free with tomorrow’s iPhone purchases (not sure whether ordering a AW5 counts or not). I’m looking forward to The Mandalorian, and that’s just the beginning. I’m not sure I’ll even check out Apple TV+.
I don’t think TV+ and Disney are head to head rivals, and they are both aggressively priced to be likely add-ons for Netflix and Hulu. Personally, I’m not that interested in Apple’s current line up. I’m also a lot more tempted by Disney’s back catalog and I’m also planning subscribe to it depending on how much of it they offer. I think one of the big reasons both Apple and Disney have developed streaming TV services to boost sales of their other products. And Disney wouldn’t have walked away from it’s $150 million per year deal with Netflix if they weren’t positive their new service would pay off big time in the short term.
Disney will be selling its new service on Apple’s App Store, so Apple will be getting a 30% cut from every subscription plus in-app purchases, and add on some more if Disney Plus subscriber uses Apple Pay or Apple Credit Card. Disney is the big majority shareholder in Hulu, pretty much makes them the defacto owner, which is distributed on the Apple Store as well. And there been no hint that Disney is planning an end run around the App Store, a la Netflix. Disney Plus stands to generate significant revenue for Apple, and Disney stands to earn significant revenue from Apple.
At least for now, the content the services are offering is very different. Apple has all original stuff and severely limited inventory at the moment. Disney is heavy on its wonderful back catalog, which will probably include stuff from its recent Fox acquisition that’s not on Hulu now.
For what it’s worth, I’ll be buying an iPhone 11, so I gather I’ll get a year’s free Apple TV+. That means they get a year to win me over. We’ll see…!
Will Arcade require Catalina? I’d be tempted to try it out on my MBP, but that’s Mojave only for the time being.
I’m not at all interested in Apple TV+ at this point. Mostly because I have yet to see a single trailer that gets me interested in one of their shows. Morning Show had some decent actors, but the story is way to hysterical and neurotic for my taste. There’s already too much drama in my real work life, I don’t need to watch over-the-top fiction of that.
That said, if they ever do anything that I’m actually interested in, I’ll watch it for free when I get my next Mac or iPhone. And if I can’t wait that long, I’ll just rent/buy it when it comes out on iTunes. I don’t need a subscription when I can pick and choose, and then pay only for what I’m actually interested in.
Haven’t even seen rumors about that. Don’t believe any beta test group has even seen the app yet. Probably only Apple employees know, for certain (maybe game developers). The rest of us will have to wait a week.
The Apple Newsroom article says:
So it looks like it will require Catalina for macOS.
Interesting early look at Disney+. “Empty but elegant” compared to Netflix but obviously a lot more content than Apple TV+.
I’m considering a Disney subscription, mainly because I like to keep up with the “Grands”. Mostly it will depend on whether I can stream on my smart tv and not just my computer.
There have been discussions about MoviePass and other cinema services here before, and I think the recent announcements about Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu, CBS All Access hastened the demise of a service that was doomed from the start:
I’m thinking of buying a new TV just to get the 1 free year of TV+ then cancel just before the year is up.
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